Yayi wins Benin presidential vote

Boni Yayi was seen as a symbol of change when he took office in 2006.

Cotonou: Benin President Boni Yayi has won re-election with 53 percent of the vote following March 13 polls, final results said on Monday, in a ballot that has led to fraud allegations from the opposition.

The country`s constitutional court said the incumbent had obtained 1,579,550 votes, amounting to an absolute majority of ballots cast, and "as a result Mr. Boni Yayi is elected president of the republic."

Results from the court showed Yayi`s main challenger, Adrien Houngbedji, with some 36 percent of nearly three million ballots cast in the first-round vote.

The numbers meant that no runoff would be needed after an election that included 14 candidates.

The head of the country`s electoral commission had on Friday announced Yayi as the winner, but the constitutional court gives the final results in the West African nation.

Figures from the court amounted to roughly the same percentages indicated by the electoral commission chief last week, but the court`s total number of votes for each of the candidates was higher.

Houngbedji has rejected the results given by the electoral commission head, alleging fraud in the ballot and claiming he had won the vote.

There were no immediate reactions from either camp to the constitutional court`s announcement.

On Saturday, Houngbedji ran through a list of fraud accusations and accused Yayi of seeking to "assassinate democracy in our country."

He alleged that ballot boxes had been stuffed and hundreds of fake voting stations had been created.

"We have won these elections," Houngbedji told journalists. "We will demand what is owed to us."

As tensions rose following the announcement of Yayi as the winner late Friday, West African bloc ECOWAS expressed "deep concern," while calling on candidates to abide by the results and settle disputes through legal channels.

Opposition supporters who are also members of the electoral commission had on Friday tried to stop the announcement of the results by blocking the door to where they were to be released, saying they disagreed with them.

Yayi`s camp on Sunday said voters had spoken and also told opposition members to use only legal means to challenge results.

Voting day passed calmly in the former French colony of some 9.2 million people despite chaotic preparations that had caused two earlier postponements of the ballot.

The first time use of an electronic voter register had led to opposition allegations that more than a million people had been left off it -- a figure others said was exaggerated.

A mop-up voter registration was to be held the Wednesday and Thursday before the election, but was extended into Saturday when crowds mobbed sign-up centres and equipment broke down.

Other issues had also led to the two earlier poll delays, including failure to distribute electoral cards on time and designate and train polling station agents.

A string of protests involving several hundred people took place over the electoral roll controversy in the run up to the vote, and authorities fired tear gas to break up one demonstration last month.

Houngbedji, 69 and running in his fifth presidential election, had pushed for a third postponement of the ballot, arguing that voter registration should continue.

Yayi, a 58-year-old economist, was seen as a symbol of change when he took office in 2006 in the country dependent on cotton cultivation and its port, but has since been weighed down by corruption scandals.

Houngbedji was supported by many of the country`s traditional political elites.

Bureau Report

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